Monday, 28 January 2013

Koh Phi Phi, Bangkok, Cambodia

It's 28th January 2012, almost exactly 2 months since I left home, and I am now in Cambodia!

From Krabi I went over to Koh Phi Phi for one night, leaving quite early in the morning to get the 8.30am boat. On the boat I bumped into Matt and Arno who I had met in Koh Tao, and together we went searching for a hostel, finding a basic one for 500 Baht, which was almost twice what I had been paying for Pak-Up in Krabi, but we had been warned that this island was expensive.
We decided to get a boat trip around some of the bays and beaches as Koh Phi Phi is stunning and I didn't have much time to see it! The boat stopped in a beautiful bay and we all jumped in the bright blue water for a swim. We then got taken to Maya Bay, which is where "The Beach" was filmed and spent an hour or so relaxing here and exploring. It was amazing and I'm so glad I got to see it!

Back on the main island we went for some dinner and then started drinking as it's a famous party island!
The next day I arranged my journey up to Bangkok by bus, Arno was making the same journey so I tried to go with him but his bus was full so I ended up going alone.
The bus journey was 12 hours long, leaving at 4.30pm and arriving in Bangkok at 4.30am! Once I was there I wandered around for quite a while trying to find a hostel but had a bit of difficulty as most places were full, but eventually found one for a reasonable price.
I stayed in Bangkok for two nights but didn't see very much as the place didn't really appeal to me after island life. It was too busy, too noisy, too seedy and I was just looking forward to moving on to Cambodia. I did meet up with a friend each night who I had met in Koh Tao - Jacob on the first night and Maddie on the second, and it was nice to see them again.
I got up at 4.30am on Friday 25th January to catch the 5.55am train from Bangkok to the Cambodian border.
I really enjoyed the train journey, it was much nicer than a bus and I got to see some of the Thai countryside and villages that I would have missed otherwise.

At the border I had to wait SO long to be able to get my visa and get through - all the queues moved very slowly and it was very hot. I eventually got through and arranged a bus to take me to Siem Reap.
I had a bit of trouble with hostels as the one I had booked for the first night turned out to be full so they transferred me to another one, where they put me in a bed on the roof on my own! I decided to pay a bit extra for a private room as everything is so cheap here and was transferred AGAIN to Smiley's guesthouse. I have stayed there for 3 nights now as it is very nice and I have been unable to move to a dorm room as everywhere is booked.
On my first night I went out to Pub Street to have some dinner and drinks and meet some people (the downside of not being able to stay in a dorm is that it's a lot harder to meet people), and I ended up having a great night in a bar called Angkor What?
The next day I met three Brazilian girls at the guesthouse - Laura, Ana and Clarisse - and we all got a tuk-tuk to go and see Tonle Sap, the biggest lake in SE Asia. However, when we got there they were trying to charge a ridiculous amount for a boat trip to see it and, after talking to some people who had done the trip and not enjoyed it much, decided it wasn't worth it and came back, stopping to look at some villages on the way. In the evening we went to rent some bikes and cycled to the main Angkor Wat temple to see the sunset. On the way back we stopped to look at some markets and get a fish massage!

The next day we took the bikes and went to see the temples properly. It was a very nice day, if not a little tiring, and the temples were amazing! In the evening we went out for dinner at the markets again and then went back to the same massage place for a proper body massage.      

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Koh Phangan, Koh Samui, Koh Tao and Krabi

This could be a long one, so much has happened since my last blog!

On 2nd January, Netsky came to play at the Beach Village on Koh Phangan! As a guest at the hostel I got free entry and the gig was absolutely amazing. The atmosphere was incredible and the fact that it was on a beach in Thailand  made it even better. Andy was doing a DJ set after Netsky and he was really good too.

I spent the next couple of days doing very little, booked myself a hostel in Koh Samui and left Koh Phangan on 4th January. The Lounge was a very nice, relatively new hostel with proper bathrooms and hot showers! I soon made friends with the people in my dorm, who were mostly part of a big group from Australia and New Zealand - Sean, JB, JT, Yo, Alex, Adam, Morgan and Ali. The next day I took a walk to see the Big Buddha (15ft, nowhere near as big as the one in Hong Kong) then got a taxi to Chaweng, the main town, to check out the beach and markets etc. It was Alex's birthday so when I got back we all got ready to go out. The guys had set him a load of challenges to complete on the night out, and he had to wear bright pink leggings and a fishnet top. We went for dinner at the same place we went to the night before, called Up2You, and he started the challenges straight away - holding an aerobics class with strangers and drinking a beer upside down on a pole. We then went to Ark Bar in Chaweng and had an amazing night. The bar is on the beach and holds beach parties every night with fire spinners and people walking around with monkeys and iguanas which they charge you to have a photo taken with. Alex managed to complete all of his challenges, including bench-pressing a random girl and drinking 26 drinks standing on one leg!

On 8th January I took a boat tour to Ang Thong Marine Park, which is a stunning archipelago of 42 islands. The boat journey over there took over an hour and I made friends with an Australian girl called Sandy, who was the only other solo traveller there! Once we got there we took kayaks from the back of the tour boat and made our way around the edge of one of the islands, stopping at a beach where we could climb up to a viewpoint to see a view of the islands and a lagoon in the centre of the one we were on.
We had lunch on the tour boat and then were taken round to another beach where we had the opportunity to swim and snorkel or take a 40 minute hike up to another viewpoint. Sandy chose the hike whereas I decided to stay at the beach. I tried snorkeling but the water was not very clear so I didn't see much. As we were heading back to the boat we were told that we could jump from the top, which was 3 storeys and great fun.
The last few days on Koh Samui were spent mainly relaxing at the beach, and I had one last night out with the Aussie lads before I left on 11th Jan for Koh Tao.

The boat journey over to Koh Tao was 2 hours, and it was nice to relax in the sun on the deck as I had walked to the pier from the hostel with my rucksack and I had started coming down with a virus. Once I got to the island I checked into the Koh Tao Backpackers hostel I had booked and went on a walk to try and find phone signal so I could contact Andy, who I knew was staying nearby. We arranged to meet at Fizz bar for some drinks on the beach, where I was introduced to a group of people and we watched the sunset, which was spectacular. We all went for dinner, followed by a lot of drinks at the beach bars!

It is very easy to relax and do very little during the day on Koh Tao, the beaches are beautiful and the water is amazingly clear. One day Andy and I hired a kayak and we could see straight down to the bottom of the sea!
I decided to try scuba diving as Koh Tao is supposed to be the cheapest and best place to do it, so I booked a discovery dive, and it was amazing! It was a little hard for me to get used to equalising and my cold made it a lot harder but it was worth it once I got down there - it's like another world. I saw so many different types of fish and coral, and plants that would disappear inside themselves if you brushed your hand over them.
On another day a few of us took mopeds over to the other side of the island to see some different beaches, and when we got back I went for an oil massage with Lucy and Arisa, who were staying in the hostel that I had now moved into, Jizo's (I didn't like Koh Tao Backpackers so moved after the first two nights).
On my last day in Koh Tao, we went over to NangYuan Islands, which are 3 islands joined together by beaches. We climbed up to the viewpoint to look over it and it was beautiful. We spent most of the day there on the beach, then later in the evening Lucy and I said our goodbyes to the others as were both leaving on the night boat to Surrathani - she was going to Kuala Lumpur, I was headed for Krabi.

The night boat was interesting. We had booked our tickets and paid for them but when we got there they said they had no beds left inside so we would have to sleep outside. This actually turned out to be quite nice, and I managed to get a relatively good sleep, even though it rained. The boat left at 9pm and arrived at Surrathani at 5am, where we had to wait until 6.30 for the different buses to come and collect us. The bus journey for me was only about 3 hours and I got a bit more sleep, although it was ridiculously crowded and so hot! When I finally got to Krabi at around 9.30am I was told my hostel was a ten minute walk away so I set off, and everybody I asked gave me different directions! I eventually got there and was so relieved. It's the nicest hostel I've stayed in yet, and the cheapest! I met Andy (again) and we went to Railay beach with a couple of other guys from the hostel. Railay beach is absolutely beautiful, like paradise, but we were told that there was an even better beach around the corner! We went to check it out and it was amazing, we swam out to a little cove and climbed through it to the other side and swam back around to the beach. It was wonderful, there were cliffs rising all around us with caves dotted around them and we couldn't quite believe that this was really how we were living our lives.

Once we got back, we decided to make the climb to see the lagoon, which involved climbing up and down rocks using bits of rope and was quite tough but worth it once we got there. We swam out into the lagoon and looked up at the cliffs that hug the very edges of the water.
The next day, Andy and I went to Tiger Cave Temple, which is situated at the top of a mountain and you have to walk up 1237 steps to get to it! We had left in the late afternoon as we were hoping to catch the sunset from the top, and we timed it perfectly. The climb was tough but definitely worth it, it was so peaceful and the view was amazing. We sat there until the sun had disappeared then made our way back down.

My plan from now is to go to Koh Phi Phi tomorrow for one night and then start making my way up to Bangkok, then to be in Cambodia by Friday.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

Claire's Visit, Christmas, Thailand, New Year

Well, it's been a while since I have written on here and a lot has happened, so I'll try and remember as much as possible.

Claire arrived on Thursday 13th December and I met her at the airport with Jenny and Jasmine. Once she had said hello to the girls back at the house, we all went out for a walk to show her around the village and ended up stopping at Janet's tent at the campsite on the beach for a drink - similar to my first night!

On the Friday I took Claire over to Mui Wo, we had a look around and went to the China Bear for a drink and a catch up, and eventually a walk along the beach. We went back once we heard that Dad was back from work and finally on holiday, and that night we caught the ferry over to Central. We started in Lan Kwai Fong, had dinner at The Hong Kong Brewhouse and then tried to get into Insomnia and Club 97 but they have changed the minimum age to 21 so Claire couldn't get in. We had a disgusting shot in the shot bar and moved onto Zinc, where we were given free shots by the waitress who knows Dad and Jenny. Later we got a taxi to Wan Chai and went to Carnegie's where you can dance on the bar. It was a great night, and we had some help getting home from Joey, who plays in a band in Spicy Fingers.

The next day was a hangover/jet lag recovery day for Claire and we stayed at home for most of the day, enjoying the sun on the balcony. In the evening we went to the girls' school for a Christmas party which they were performing in, then went over to Wan Chai again for another night out - slightly more subdued this time. We went to Boracay and Insider's, both of which had live bands playing, then got the 12.30am ferry back.

On Sunday 16th the weather was amazing and Claire, Dad and I went for a hike up the mountain on the same route I had taken before, only this time we got further. It took us most of the day but we didn't complete the trail as it was very long and we needed to get back before dark.

On the Monday we went over to Macau and had a very late dinner at Fisherman's Wharf. The next day we slept in late, had a swim in the hotel pool and then went out for a bit of shopping after a quick visit to the casino. That night we went out for dinner at a portugese restaurant and then went on to The Lion Bar at MGM Casino where there was a very good live band playing. On the Wednesday we visited Tai Pa village and had lunch in an Irish pub along with some mulled wine before heading back to Hong Kong.

Thursday was spent in Wan Chai doing shopping for our early Christmas on Friday and Claire's new laptop was ordered. The two of us went on our own to Wan Chai the next morning to collect it while the Christmas dinner was being cooked. The dinner was very nice and I finally got into the festive spirit! We opened some presents after dinner and then we left the girls with Roselle and went out to Spicy Fingers in Wan Chai for Claire's last night. Gangnam Style was played so Claire and I did the dance, much to everyone's amusement.

Friday was leaving day for Claire so we all went to the airport to see her off, it was very emotional! I can't believe I'm not going to be seeing her for so long. That night I found out that I had to re-adjust my plans for Thailand as Emma was now unable to come out and meet me, and Saturday was spent looking for flights and hotels.
I think the next couple of days were spent preparing for Christmas, we went shopping on the 24th for food and gifts and got back quite late before watching the Muppet's Christmas Carol - it is tradition after all!

On Christmas morning Dad and I took the girls out on their new bikes to cycle down by the beach, before going back for the Christmas lunch. We had lamb which was lovely and a nice break from the turkey we had been eating since the first Christmas with Claire! In the evening I Skyped with the family back home, it was very strange not to be there with them! After that we just settled down to watch tv and drink wine into the early hours.

The next couple of days were spent buying things that I need for my travels, and on the Wednesday night we went out for dinner at Outback in Wan Chai and went on to Typhoon and Dusk Til Dawn as it was my last chance to go out before my very early flight on Friday.
Saying goodbye to everyone was extremely hard, it doesn't seem like I stayed there for a month and I felt like I could happily go on living there for a lot longer.

My flight to Koh Samui was fine, I slept a bit as I hadn't been able to sleep the night before, and after 3 hours I was landing in brilliant sunshine! The airport was all open-air and basic and I booked a bus and a boat together to get over to Koh Phangan. Once I arrived on the island I got a free taxi pick-up to the hostel and checked into my four bed dorm. It is very basic, literally just four beds and some fans, with shared toilets and showers outside, but it does the job.
The rest of the hostel is very nice, there is a communal area called the Showroom where I'm writing this now, it's very relaxed, and there is a nice pool and beach right outside.
I was feeling a bit overwhelmed at being here on my own, but luckily, after I'd had some dinner, I got invited to join a group of people who were having a bit of a pool party, and I ended up going to the full moon party with them! It was the complete opposite of the early night I had planned as I got back at around 6am.

The party was amazing. It's a long stretch of beach lined with bars that are blasting music out the front and thousands of people dancing on the beach. There are stalls selling food and drink, including lots of stalls selling buckets - your choice of alcohol with a mixer in a beach bucket with a straw or two. The people I were with were great fun, although we lost some of them quite early, and I had a brilliant time.

On Saturday I spent the entire day sunbathing on the beach as the weather was amazing! The sunset was just as spectacular, and after the sun had gone down I walked out into the sea on a raised strip of sand with Lauren, one of the girls from the night before, and Brett, a guy from Perth I had met on the beach. It was beautiful, like walking on water with the sea all around us.
Lauren and I went out for dinner at a nice Thai place up the road and we got an early night.
The next day was another day spent entirely on the beach with Andy, an English guy I met over breakfast, Lauren, and a group of Irish guys. We drank beer all day and had a great laugh, even when all the power went out and we huddled around a bottle with burning paraffin inside. Eventually, at around midnight, it started raining and we went inside, intending to go to a jungle party nearby. I went to get changed but ended up falling asleep! The next day I found out that everyone else had done the same so I didn't miss out.
Yesterday was New Year's Eve and it was another relaxed day, not on the beach this time though as it was raining torrentially for almost the whole day. I had dinner with Lauren at a Mexican place and then we started to get ourselves ready for the big party on Haad Rin beach - Full Moon Party number two!
It was even more crazy than the first one and I absolutely loved it! Met so many people and drank a lot of buckets, so feeling a bit rough today.

Happy New Year everyone!